FBI probe of Taylor mayor expands into election activities
The FBI has subpoenaed documents about Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars' re-election fundraising while investigating the Downriver politician for racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering, according to a grand jury subpoena obtained by The Detroit News.
Investigators are focused on the use of the city-owned Lakes of Taylor golf course from 2016-18 and whether Sollars' re-election committee or a third party paid to use the facilities, according to the subpoena.
The subpoena provides new insight into an ongoing corruption investigation that emerged publicly in February when FBI agents raided City Hall, the mayor's home and cottage, and the home and office of a city contractor. Investigators seized campaign records and $206,493 from Sollars and later raided the home and business of a second businessman.
The grand jury subpoena was issued in April but revealed Tuesday when attorney Andrew Paterson obtained a copy via a Freedom of Information Act request.
"It is apparent from the newly released federal grand jury subpoenas that Mayor Sollars may be facing multiple federal felonies," Paterson wrote in an email to The News. "The detail contained in the newly released federal grand jury subpoenas seem to indicate that a number of city vendors have been spilling the beans with respect to Mayor Sollars and his campaign fundraisers."
Prosecutors have not filed any criminal charges since searching the locations, and Sollars remains in office.
An FBI spokeswoman declined comment and Sollars' attorney could not be reached immediately for comment Wednesday. Taylor city spokesman Karl Ziomek declined comment.
The golf course and banquet center has been a frequent setting for Sollars, who delivered his State of the City address at the facility two days after the FBI raids and professed his innocence. The grand jury subpoena sought documentation related to golf fundraisers and cigar parties Sollars' re-election committee held at the golf course since 2016.
Specifically, the subpoena requested copies of checks, credit card documents and records of any cash payments to the Lakes of Taylor related to the various events.
Sollars’ election committee has not filed a campaign statement since last year, according to county elections records. In October 2018, the committee reported a $162,382 balance.
Sollars’ campaign hired the Clark Hill law firm to review campaign finance reports and correct irregularities involving contributions and expenses, attorney Michael Pattwell wrote in an email to The News.
“Since this summer, the committee has been working with the Michigan Secretary of State to prepare amended campaign finance reports…,” Pattwell wrote. “Once the committee has amended those historic campaign finance reports it will turn its attention to preparing and filing the more recent reports which had not been filed due to the federal government seizing the underlying records in an unrelated matter.”
During the City Hall search, investigators were hunting for records linking the mayor to property management owner Shady Awad, records involving the mayor's personal and campaign finances, and his casino activity, according to search warrant records obtained by The News.
Sollars, 45, was elected mayor of the Downriver community 17 miles southwest of Detroit in November 2013 following two terms on the City Council and a career in private business as a partner of three Romulus-based manufacturing companies.
Federal prosecutors want to seize his home and vacation chalet in Lenawee County and have filed liens to have the approximately $600,000 worth of real estate forfeited to the government upon conviction.